The Best Photography Spots to Enjoy Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve is a vast and wild land, home to some of the most outstanding landscapes in the world. Here, you can experience untouched mountain landscapes, pristine alpine lakes, steaming geysers and hot springs, sweeping glaciers, and ancient forests. Denali National Park and Preserve is one of Alaska’s most popular visitor destinations for over a century.
If you’re looking for a truly unique and breathtaking experience, head to Denali National Park and Preserve. It’s one of the most visited national parks in the country and has some of the most varied terrains in North America. You can hike, raft, explore by dog sled, or even do nothing at all. One thing is for certain: The views will take your breath away. Discover your own Denali National Park and Preserve photography guide with these beautiful photos we’ve curated.
The best gear to photograph Denali National Park and Preserve
We recommend an excellent camera and the holy trinity of equipment, a wide field of view lens. 14-24mm or a comparable range A 24-70mm or equivalent lens, as well as a 70-200mm or comparable lens.
Don’t worry if you don’t have these lenses; something similar will suffice. If you want to photograph sunsets at night, you should also invest in a tripod.
1. Polychrome Pass
One of the most beautiful photo spots in the Denali National Park and Preserve is Polychrome Pass. Photographers from all over the world visit this area to capture the many shades of red, green, and blue among the rocks. This Loop Road highway segment extends for nearly 5 miles with a 1-mile side road offering access to a parking lot at Polychrome Flats.
The Polychrome Pass is one of the most photogenic locations in Denali National Park, and it is one of the main roads connecting the park visitor center to Kantishna. With spectacular views of the Alaska Range, it’s a pleasure to drive through.
2. Savage Alpine Trail
The Savage Alpine Trail is one of the photography spots in Denali National Park and Preserve, offering glimpses of stunning alpine tundra vistas. The trailhead starts roughly 16 miles down Denali Park Road and is a strenuous 10 miles roundtrip hike. This less-traveled route along the Savage River Canyon provides an invigorating trek for those seeking a real wilderness experience within one of America’s most visited national parks.
3. Savage River
Savage River is a scenic, north-flowing tributary of the Kantishna River within Denali National Park. It is one of the most popular photography spots within the park, with its gorgeous views of the Alaska Range and wildflowers in the summer. Savage River is one of Denali’s most scenic waterfalls and is a short, easy hike from the road. The Savage Run is about twenty feet high at its tallest point and runs into the river far below, creating the impression that it is being born out of the river bed. This makes for a great spot to wet your toes or swim around in the shallows near the falls.
4. Mount McKinley
Mount McKinley is one of the most popular photography spots in Denali National Park and Preserve. The easiest way to access the summit is with a fully guided day hike or a multiday backpack adventure. The 8-mile round trip hike to the top of South Peak, at 20,320 feet, will give you an amazing view and you will be able to see Denali. This is a strenuous hike that takes 6-8 hours round trip.
5. Caribou in Autumn
Denali’s caribou, a medium-sized member of the deer family, is one of the most photographed wildlife species in Denali National Park and Preserve. In fact, Denali National Park and Preserve have been home to caribou for thousands of years. Caribou is one of the most sought-after animals in Denali National Park and Preserve. They migrate thousands of miles annually, so seeing them is always an adventure. Come see the herd up close during their calving season and get up-close-and-personal with Alaska’s national animal.
6. Toklat River
The Toklat River is located in the Alaska Range along the Alaska Range Highway, and is one of the most photography spots in Denali National Park and Preserve. It begins at Kahiltna Glacier and ends at Tundra Lake. The most iconic feature of this river is the wild brown bears that frequent it, including those in Denali National Park.
7. Peaks Sky Valley
Peaks Sky Valley is a remote place to explore and enjoy spectacular views of Denali National Park and Preserve. You’ll see wildlife and wildflowers, hike along a creek or two, cycle through open tundra, and ride horseback trails up Near Peak and across to the Wood River Valley. You might even see a bear if you’re lucky!
8. Wonder Lake
A little-known, undiscovered area of Denali National Park, Wonder Lake is a beautiful set of lakes nestled between the Alaska Range and Caribou Hills. Wonder Lake is one of the most popular photography spots in Denali National Park and Preserve because it has everything: dense forests, mountain views, ice-blue lakes, and even a tiny little island. Though it’s easy to capture the beauty of Wonder Lake from a distance, actually walking around it by boat or canoe to discover hidden gems is where the fun lies.
9. Fall foliage
Fall foliage is one of the photography spots in Denali National Park and Preserve. This is a great time to see Alaska’s vibrant fall colors on display—especially along the Parks Highway and the Alaska Railroad.
10. Teklanika River
The Teklanika River is probably the most photographed spot in Denali National Park and Preserve. It’s really easy for photographers to reach this river, and it doesn’t take much effort to get some great photos, but the river is no joke, so be prepared. There are a handful of good spots to photograph the river that is easily accessible by car or by foot. The drive there will bring you through the thick forest, with a few views along the way. Once you get to the parking lot, most people choose to walk over a mile down the trail to see how far they can make it before getting bogged down by snow or overflowing water. If it hasn’t snowed recently, you’ll likely find yourself walking through many inches of loose snow across large tussocks; thigh-deep puddles are not uncommon here even during summer months.
11. Triple Lakes Trail
The Triple Lakes Trail gives you a taste of everything Denali has to offer. It’s home to a range of wildlife, like moose and caribou, as well as incredible views of the terrain – but this hike starts with a lot of elevation gain. Make sure to take plenty of breaks to catch your breath along the way. Once you reach the top though, you’ll have earned the right to say you conquered one of Alaska’s most scenic trails.
12. Horseshoe Lake
The Horseshoe Lake Trail is one of the photography spots in Denali National Park and Preserve. Hike through beautiful alpine meadows, watch stunning views unfold as you cross over a jagged rock-strewn ridge, and take in wildflowers as you spot wildlife alongside the lake. This is a great day hike for kids and families, but make sure to bring plenty of water. This lake is also a great place to visit if you want to escape the crowds that inevitably gather around Upper McKinley Lake and Wonder Lake.
13. Vast Green Tundra
The Vast Green Tundra is a photography spot that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Located in Alaska, Denali National Park, and Preserve is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in America. The vista stretches out for miles, with mountains, glaciers, and tundra covering the landscape, as far as the eye can see.
14. Kahiltna Peaks East
The East Peaks of Kahiltna are one of the most photographed spots in Denali National Park and Preserve. This route is often chosen by people who are just beginning to attempt Denali’s summit because it is a bit easier to navigate from the toe of the mountain up to 14,000 feet. But don’t let that fool you – even experienced mountaineers can have intense encounters on this route. Ascending about 6,000 vertical feet in less than a mile on steep Slickrock and screen can be a challenge at any level.
15. Kantishna Road
The Kantishna Road was the first road built for travel to the interior of Alaska. It’s now a popular photography spot in Denali National Park and Preserves, with an easy trail to walk beside the road. The road begins at Mile 30 of the Parks Highway, accessible only by foot during the winter months. Visitors travel down the dirt road on foot or by ATV to view the stunning landscape and animals of Denali National Park and Preserve. There are also several small cabins along the road for overnight stays for those wishing to explore Kantishna Road further.
16. Reflection Pond
There are many amazing photography spots in Denali National Park and Preserve, but the Reflection Pond takes the cake. A wide-open field dotted with wildflowers and surrounded by tall mountain peaks creates a beautiful, tranquil scene that’s great for nature photography, outfit shoots, or other photo opportunities. This is a great place to take photos, or just enjoy the scenery. We recommend a hike along the Taylor Highway from mile marker 23 to mile marker 30, where you can see several different views of the pond.
17. Stony Dome – Stony Hill Scenic Overlook
Stony Dome is one of the most intensively photographed locations in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve. Known for its late-afternoon light, this viewpoint offers a stunning view of mountains and a chance to see Mt. McKinley.
18. Iglo City
Igloo City is located in Denali National Park, near the entrance to the park and alongside the George Parks Highway. It’s one of the most photographed spots in Denali and features a number of igloos for you to hold your own wedding ceremony or take family photos. Connect with one of the most photogenic landscapes on Earth! Experience Igloo City in the heart of Denali National Park.
19. Hurricane Gulch
Located 17 miles from Denali National Park entrance, Hurricane Gulch offers a variety of landscapes and options for backpacking enthusiasts. It is one of the most photographed spots in Denali, offering majestic views of mountain peaks and wide open tundra plains.
20. Denali State Park
Denali State Park is one of the most photographed areas in Denali National Park and Preserve, home to wildflowers, as well as caribou and moose. Denali State Park is a great place for a family picnic or hike, but be sure to avoid driving off-road in your vehicle, as it damages the park’s fragile ecosystem.
21. Denali Visitor Center
The Preserve’s Visitor Center is just the first of many great scenic stops on your journey. You’ll pass through an evergreen forest that stands out in contrast to the surrounding wetlands and tundra, before arriving at Denali Visitor Center. Here you’ll find exhibits about wildlife and human history, as well as amenities like restrooms and shops where you can buy snacks or souvenirs. Take a photo in front of Mt. McKinley (Denali) carved into the snow upon which park visitors have inscribed their names, or enjoy the view from a multi-level rooftop terrace with stunning views of the Alaska Range
22. Denali Aurora
Denali is a great place to see the northern lights because it is very far north and there isn’t a lot of light pollution. Light pollution happens in towns, cities, and other places where too much artificial light makes the natural environment look too bright.
People who like to look at the stars and the Northern Lights appreciate dark night skies, as do astronomers who use telescopes to study the universe. But because light pollution is so common, about 80% of Americans live in places where they can’t see the Milky Way from their homes. People are less likely to be able to name constellations, tell stories about the night sky, and enjoy looking at planets, galaxies, and other things in the night sky if they don’t have these experiences as children.
These are the Best Photography Spots to Enjoy Denali National Park and Preserve
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